This is a difficult one. Atlanta signed star kicker Younghoe Ko to a five year, $24.3 million contract. Cordarrelle Patterson was signed to a one year, $5 million contract. This is fair for a player who played a vital role in the Falcons offense in 2021. Casey Hayward Jr. remains a valuable cornerback, and Atlanta has a legitimate tandem with A.J. Terrell. Check out the top new sportsbooks for betting on the Falcons!
While I won’t detail why I was not too fond of Atlanta’s attempt to make a quarterback this offseason, I will say that the backup plan was acceptable enough. Marcus Mariota was a close-to-average starter during his time with Tennessee. The Falcons can now land him for $6.8m in 2022, giving them a viable floor at quarterback. The third-round draft of Desmond Ridder was an attractive option. Even if Ridder ends up being a backup quarterback, the $5.4 million four-year deal Ridder is expected to sign would still be a great use of a pick.
What went wrong? Let’s begin with Atlanta’s pursuit of Deshaun Wade. Aside from moral objections to the Texans’ quarterback trade, the Falcons were probably the worst-equipped team in the league for Watson’s acquisition. Atlanta never saw a Watson trade as a good idea.
Watson would have had little to no help for a Falcons team that needs to keep its draft picks in place for the future. The general manager, Terry Fontenot, would have had to trade Matt Ryan for Grady Jarrett to get a Watson deal on the books. Although it’s tempting to see Watson as a player who can ensure his team wins, the last time Watson was on the field was after a healthy season for a 4-12 Texans squad. That would have been more in Atlanta.
Ryan was eventually alienated, and he was traded to the Colts in exchange for a third-round draft pick. The Falcons had to spend more than $40 million on dead money for Ryan, their long-time quarterback. This is an NFL record. The Falcons now have $63 million in dead cash after the unfortunate extension of Julio Jones and the disastrous free-agent signing of Dante Fowler Jr.
The Falcons were only able to sign their draft class. They had to extend Jake Matthews and Jarrett then. Both are good players. Matthews has the seventh-largest offensive tackle contract by three-year value. Jarrett is fourth among defensive tackles. Jarrett isn’t the problem in Atlanta’s defense. Sacks aren’t everything. But that’s a big deal for a player with just one sack and 12 knockdowns last season.
The Falcons also lost their free agency successes. Russell Gage was traded to the Buccaneers. Foyesade Olowun signed with the Jaguars on a too large contract for the Falcons. They signed Hayward and Mariota as compensatory picks for losing these players. They would have also had to sign Damien Williams and Auden Tate veterans, which would have compensated for the compensatory picks. Check out the best bookmakers for betting on the NFL!
Although the Falcons lack the cap space to add meaningful players, their roster is so short of talent that they have to rely on veterans with low-cost contracts to build a team. Although they could get out of this situation next year by cutting Deion James and Mariota, the Falcons would have more than $59M in cap space. However, unless Ridder finds lightning in a bottle, this will not be an enjoyable situation to watch.
Oh, and wideout Calvin Ridley was temporarily suspended after placing multiple parlay bets via his phone last season. Ridley will likely request a trade when he returns, but the Falcons won’t have much leverage. The Texans did manage to get three picks in the first round for Watson. This is the direst situation in the league right now.
What they could do differently: It’s possible that the Falcons should have torn everything apart and started again. Ryan would have been traded earlier in the offseason to get a better return, and Jarrett would be cut to free up future cap space. The Falcons have been tugging on their band-aid for the past year, but it is time to get rid of it.
Now what? Get a new deal for Chris Lindstrom. He has been regarded as one of the best right guards in the league. The Falcons have taken Lindstrom’s fifth-year option worth $13.2 million for 2023. However, they can get an extension now to give them maximum flexibility and a rare piece of good news. Although Lindstrom is not in a similar tier to Colts star Quenton Nick, which should reset the guard market’s top, a four-year deal worth $60 million should be within reach of the lineman at 25.
The Falcons will have a legit shot to get a franchise quarterback when this season is over. The Falcons will endure a lousy season, but in the end, that may be the quickest way to turn things around.
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